Breast Cancer genes found in both men and women; here's all you need to know about BRCA and genetic testing
Previous studies have shown that mutations (change in the structure) in the Breast Cancer (BRCA) genes in men can increase the risk of breast cancer, prostate cancer, and other cancers
According to the World Health Organisation, breast cancer is the most frequently occurring cancer in women, affecting more than 21 lakh women every year. Breast cancer and ovarian cancer is determined by mutations in a prominent gene present in the body known as the Breast Cancer Gene (BRCA). The BRCA genes are not only present in women but men too.
Moreover, previous studies have shown that mutations (change in the structure) in the BRCA genes in men can increase the risk of breast cancer, prostate cancer, and other cancers. Recently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the US, approved two new drugs, rucaparib and olaparib, specifically for men with BRCA-positive prostate cancer that has stopped responding to other treatment.
What is BRCA?
Each person has a DNA which forms the human body and helps it in functioning. Genes are a part of that DNA which gives each individual different traits. For instance, if a person has the genes for blue eyes, they will have blue coloured eyes. Similarly, BRCA is a type of gene which stands for Breast Cancer. There are two types of BRCA genes: BRCA1 and BRCA2. These genes produce tumour suppressor proteins which then help in repairing the damaged DNA.
Whenever there is an alteration (mutation) in any of these genes, there is either an absence of the protein formation or formation of faulty proteins. These faulty proteins are incapable of repairing the DNA damage, thus increasing the risk of cancer.
What all cancers have been linked to mutations in BRCA?
Mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 can increase the risk of several cancers in both men and women. In women, the mutation of BRCA can lead to the cancer of the breast, ovaries, fallopian tube and peritoneum. In men, BRCA mutations can increase the risk of breast cancer and prostate cancer. Harmful BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations in both men and women can increase the risk of pancreatic cancer.
Can BRCA mutation run in family?
BRCA mutation can lead to cancer and cancers can run in the family. If you have a family member with a history of ovarian cancer, fallopian tube cancer, breast cancer, male breast cancer, prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer or even melanoma, then it is possible that a BRCA mutation is running in your family.
Are there any tests that can help detect mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2?
Yes, there are several tests available that can help in determining harmful BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation that has already been recognised in another family member. Multigene panel testing is one such test which uses next-generation sequencing to find out harmful mutations in many genes that are linked with an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer along with BRCA1 and BRCA2.
For this test, the doctor studies the DNA derived from the blood or saliva samples.
If you have a family history of cancer, you can reach out to a doctor for genetic counselling and they’ll be able to guide you further and help you decide if you need genetic testing.
For more information, read our article on Breast Cancer.
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